In fast switching power semiconductors, the use of a fourth terminal to provide the reference potential for the gate signal—known as a kelvin-source terminal—is becoming common. The introduction of this terminal presents opportunities for condition monitoring systems. This article demonstrates how the voltage between the kelvin-source and power-source can be used to specifically monitor bond-wire degradation. Meanwhile, the drain to kelvin-source voltage can be monitored to track defects in the semiconductor die or gate driver. Through an accelerated aging test on 20 A Silicon Carbide Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor-Field-Effect Transistors (MOSFETs), it is shown that there are opposing trends in the evolution of the on-state resistances of both the bond-wires and the MOSFET die. In summary, after 50,000 temperature cycles, the resistance of the bond-wires increased by up to 2 mΩ, while the on-state resistance of the MOSFET dies decreased by approximately 1 mΩ. The conventional failure precursor (monitoring a single forward voltage) cannot distinguish between semiconductor die or bond-wire degradation. Therefore, the ability to monitor both these parameters due to the presence of an auxiliary-source terminal can provide more detailed information regarding the aging process of a device.
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